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INTERVIEW. Hannes SWOBODA calls on Romanians to vote. Farage’s statements, “a racist position”

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Hannes Swoboda, president of the Group of Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D)in the European Parliament, explained the importance of the European elections, in an exclusive interview for caleaeuropeana.ro.

Q: Mr President, Romania is one of the many countries where the Socialists have many expectations from these elections and we studied it a lot on our website dedicated to European affairs, caleaeuropeana.ro, which means the European Path. We promote the European vision and we analyze very deeply the platforms of  Schulz, Juncker and Verhofstadt and promote the debates between the candidates at European level. My first question is which are your main expectations for these elections with regard to Romania?

swoboda

A: First of all, a good participation in the elections. I see there is a lively debate in Romania. And secondly, I expect a strong voice from all the social-democrats, from Mr. Ponta himself and the other candidates on the line of Romania’s connection with Europe and that is a very good orientation, that people are there in the EP for Romania and Romania is working for Europe.

Q-what do you think about the Romanian Socialist Party’s slogan chosen for these elections: Proud that we are Romanians?

A- I think it has to be seen in connection to Europe…proud to be Romanian in Europe, because it is the dirty campaigns of Nigel Farage and others implying Romania is not the same as other countries in Western Europe, but that’s not the case. I think it’s a very good slogan meaning that we are proud to be Romanian in Europe.

Q- you are talking, Mr. President, about the recent statements of Nigel Farage who said he would feel in danger living in a neighbourhood where Romanians would come.

A- it’s a racist position and absolutely unacceptable.

Q- I saw that there is a strong determination to solve the economic problems and have some solutions for jobs ( job creation). How will the Socialists solve this problem in Europe? We are talking about more than 23 million people without jobs. It’s like a country bigger than Romania.

A- I think we have to invest in jobs. We have to spend money for that. We need to find the means to fight against the tax evasion by rich people who, instead of paying taxes, bring the money to differential markets with all the consequences of speculation. There is money and it’s all countries’ concern to invest in European links, which will create a lot of jobs. If you’re going just from Sibiu to Pitesti, you’ll see the need to have a highly efficient link on the road, on the rail…and I think this is what Europe is about: that we have European connections, not only inside the country, but across the borders.

Q-do you think that after this crisis we can say that mostly ordinary people suffered the costs of recovery?

A-of course. Those who have a lot of money can bring the money from one bank to another bank or can buy a property. See cities in Western Europe where the housing prices go extremely up. The rich part of the society don’t get to pay interest rates in the bank, they just build houses in London, Vienna and other places. It is visible that there are parts of the society who are not suffering and who can get some richness and wealth.

Q-do you feel in danger, now that you are in Romania? Because there is a conflict near our borders, in Ukraine. Do you feel safe as a European citizen? Many citizens in Eastern Europe are feeling uncomfortable with this conflict. Maybe those in Western Europe are feeling more secure.

A- of course, Romania is closer by. Last week I was in Kiev and then in Eastern Ukraine and I saw that the deep conflict is not only between Ukraine and Russia, but also inside Ukraine. There are two sides: Russia, who has an aggressive policy, with Mr. Putin, but there are also people from inside the country who are extremists. And I think Europe should have an influence on those responsible to bring people together, to form a unity inside the country. Secondly, we need, for the medium and long term, a common energy policy, which is reducing our dependence on Russian gas. There is a lot for Europe to do, things that countries cannot do individually. We need to go for a European strategy to give security to our citizens.

Q-this is one of the key subjects of this campaign, because, in the beginning, the Socialists seemed to be very close to winning, but after the Ukraine crisis and some misunderstood declarations of Mr. Schulz, the balance changed and some polls talk about the EPP getting a little advantage over the Socialists. Do you think this is real or not?

A-well, I think the Socialists in Romania will be no. 1 because if you look at Mr. Ponta and his government, it’s a clear vision of transforming the country, of modernizing it while respecting the social element. So, I am quite optimistic.

Q-well, this is at Romanian level, but what about the European level?

A-I am still optimistic, because I never bore the illusion that it is some easy way to win. I think it is a very difficult job. Anyway, I think the gap between the Populars and us will be reduced and we’ll be again no. 1. I get information of people… that they will vote for the Socialists, because Martin Schulz is the top candidate. I am very optimistic, but at the same time realistic. Remember that the gap between us and the EPP is quite strong, so if we get close to the EPP, it would already be a gain, but we’ll fight ‘till the end to get to the no. 1 position.

A- We were the first to mention your Tweet regarding putting under charge President Basescu in the summer of 2012. And  you said, that night, after the Constitutional Court decided that it was legal to cancel the results, please stop all campaigns and go to work. We are now talking again about some of the President’s actions promoting the EPP and we saw a lot of debates on it in Romania. Do you think it is necessary to put the President, again, to submit to the judgement of people?

A- as it is now the elections for the EP and there will be the elections for the President next year, I think this will give the citizens a clear view to vote for somebody who will be more constructive, more helpful for Romania. Despite the differences, I think it is more important for the Government to promote Romania’s future and let’s hope for a president who will correct the image and bring the position of president of a country back to somebody who’s promoting the interest of the country and not party politics.

Q- I understand. Do you think Mr. Ponta is suitable for this position?

– I’m not judging an individual person. As for me, I think the Social-Democrats will make the right choice and I hope for somebody who is really leaving party politics behind and is going for Romania, because this is what a president should do.

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Op-ed | President of the Consultative Commission on Industrial Change at the European Economic and Social Committee: Without critical raw materials resilience, there will be no green or digital industrial revolution

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© EESC

Opinion by  Pietro Francesco De Lotto, President of the Consultative Commission on Industrial Change at the European Economic and Social Committee

Whether we are talking about a fourth, fifth, or even sixth industrial revolution, we often see public debate take place. Despite the different views on the issue, one thing we can say with certainty is that our industry is undergoing a profound revolution, which comprises a twin challenge: becoming greener and more circular, as well as going through a digital transformation. It is a revolution that is driven by several factors: our commitments under the Paris Agreement, the pursuit of global competitiveness, the need to adapt labour markets, consumer sensitivity and, last but not least, public opinion.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals and the fight against climate change are clearly essential pillars of the EU’s action, and we need to ensure that they are perceived and experienced more and more as an opportunity rather than a burden by all parts of society and industry. The European Green Deal, the Circular Economy Action Plan, the recently updated New Industrial Strategy for Europe, the Fit for 55 package presented in July, and the related activities and legislation are essential tools to transform public debates into an everyday reality, everywhere in Europe, leaving no one behind in this collective effort.

Raw materials, and especially critical raw materials, are at the core of this process. Digitalising and greening EU industries and society require technologies that depend on raw materials. Wind power, for instance, comes from turbines that contain, among other materials, rare earth elements. The EU relies almost 100% on China to supply such elements. Similar scenarios exist for many technologies that are essential to the green and digital transition, from batteries to photovoltaics, from robotics to fuel cells. The EU Critical Raw Materials Action Plan and the Updated Industrial Strategy identify 30 materials and 137 products respectively that are essential for our industry and society and on which the EU is highly dependent.

These are worrying figures, but they also provide a necessary reality check. The past few months have brought these dependencies to the public’s attention even more clearly, as the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the need for EU industry and society overall to become more resilient and strategically autonomous, especially in areas such as vaccines, medicines and medical devices. The time to act on these critical factors is therefore ripe, and we must make use of all instruments to address our dependencies with a strategic vision.

The Commission’s Action Plan on Critical Raw Materials, on which the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) recently published its opinion CCMI 177, is a good instrument that combines measures to fix current shortcomings with actions to mitigate possible future problems. The EESC believes that the actions envisaged by the European Commission are essential if we are to maintain and strengthen the EU’s industrial base. This is a very important first point: for too long, we have left this issue up to the free market and industry, hoping that it would regulate itself. We must however now acknowledge that, as much as companies should be free to build their supply chains, we need to secure some parts of these chains that we deem of strategic importance to the European Union.

More specifically, the EU needs support instruments for sustainable primary sourcing in Europe. Financial instruments for sustainable projects, as well as streamlined authorisation processes are needed, as is the greater involvement of and public acceptance by citizens and local communities. This is also very much linked to the need to maintain extractive and processing capacities in the EU. We need to support workers and regions through better training and a deeper link with higher and vocational education, including investment in training and retraining workers, and in the teaching of specialist disciplines such as geology, metallurgy and mining, even at undergraduate level.

At the same time, and this is the second point, we need to invest in activities that can foster substitution; something that will only be possible with significant, constant investment in R&D programmes to discover new materials and processes for ensuring justified substitution.

Together with primary sourcing and substitution, the third key element is that of circular reuse and secondary sourcing from waste. To do this, we need to invest in research and development, but we also need to carefully assess the waste we ship outside Europe, while at the same time mapping – as soon as possible – the potential supply of secondary critical raw materials from EU stocks and waste.

As for the external dimension, the EU needs to diversify its trading relations, while supporting developing countries. These two objectives go hand in hand, as our efforts should be aimed at forging strategic partnerships with like-minded nations in a multilateral framework, which can both help avoid supply disruptions for EU industry and contribute to the well-being and development of developing third countries. In this regard, there are three very specific elements to be underlined: the mutual advantages of integrating the Western Balkans countries into the EU supply chain; the urgent need for an increased role for the Euro in critical raw materials trading and the need to take greater account of the ethical dimension when drawing up Europe’s critical raw materials list.

Overall, we want to see EU industry flourish in a green and digital way, but we do not want to see our industry and society shift from one dependency (for instance on certain fossil fuels) to another full reliance on certain critical raw materials. To avoid this, and to ensure that the green and digital transitions increase resilience, competitiveness and social justice, we need to invest in research and development, sustainable domestic mining exploration, recovering valuable materials from waste, training and retraining a skilled workforce and creating a multilateral level playing field. This is essential in order to ensure that the green and digital revolutions are successful and benefit EU industry and society as a whole, and do not leave any worker, region and country of the world behind.

Pietro Francesco De Lotto

President of the Consultative Commission on Industrial Change at the European Economic and Social Committee

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MEP Vasile Blaga: Romania has fulfilled for 11 years all the Schengen requirements and our acceptance is still delayed

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© Vasile Blaga/ Facebook

MEP Vasile Blaga, member of the Committee on Civil Liberties of the European Parliament, took the floor during today’s reunion of the LIBE Committee, June 15, and with this occasion touched, during his intervention, upon a “political aspect” throughout the debate on CMV.

“This political aspect refers to the integration of Romania in the Schengen area and the connection between CMV and the postponement of our entry into Schengen. I was the Minister of Internal Affairs who dealt with the removal of the safeguard clause and securing the frontiers regarding Romania’s adherence to the EU”, mention the MEP during the reunion.

Moreover, the liberal MEP pointed out that Romania administers almost 2000 kilometres of EU borders and has fulfilled for 11 years all the Schengen criteria: “nevertheless, Romania’s admission is delayed without openly specifying why. Of course, it was denied on multiple occasions that the integration in the Schengen area would be related to the criticism from the CVM reports. However, reality contradicts this. I believe that the postponement of a decision regarding Romania’s admission to Schengen is an unfair treatment which the European Union applies to my country”, he added.

“I would like to express my hope that the finalization of the CVM for Romania will remove any obstacle, declared or undeclared, to Romania’s integration into Schengen”, concluded Vasile Blaga.

The entire intervention of the MEP can be followed here.

The European Parliament adopted on July 8, with 505 votes for, 134 against and 54 abstentions, the annual report regarding the functioning of the Schengen area which claims, again, that Romania and Bulgaria have to be integrated with full rights into Schengen, while a specifying that Croatia meets all the technical requirements as well.

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MEP Vasile Blaga: The Romanian Government, determined to finalize all the necessary reforms for the suspension of the CVM

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© Vasile Blaga/Facebook

MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) participated today, July 15, at the reunion of the Committee on Civil Liberties of the European Parliament and specified Romania’s direction following the last CVM report.

“The last CVM report for Romania clearly shows that in Bucharest exists political volition the effective implementation of the last steps towards reforms which will lead to the suspension of this mechanism for Romania. During the 14 years of evaluation, we found ourselves in the thankless position of repairing the inherited matters from the previous governments, the case being the same today. The last CVM report puts forward Romania’s positive progress from the last 2 years. I emphasize the fact that in Bucharest we have a governmental coalition determined to finalize all necessary reforms”, explained Vasile Blagato his colleagues.

Moreover, the liberal MEP notes that Romania still campaigns for averting the double evaluation regarding the Mechanism of the rule of law: “I want to point out the fact that there is a true expectancy for the finalization of the Mechanism for cooperation and its verification and evaluation based on the same criteria applied to all member states, meaning through the Mechanism regarding the rule of law. Romania still pleads for the prevention of this double evaluation.”

The entire intervention of the MEP can be seen here.

The European Commission adopted on June 8 its most recent report regarding the evolution of the situation in Romania concerning the reforms of the judicial system and fight against corruption, in the context of the responsibilities assumed within the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), noting that Romania registered developments regarding all the recommendations of the CVM and that the fulfillment of all recommendations is essential for the closure of this mechanism.

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